Anglesey Part 2-ancient places

One of the aspects of Anglesey we love so much is its long, long history with signs of man’s influence on the island going back to pre-historic times. As a family we have always enjoyed visiting historic sites, castles, cromlechs, burial mounds etc.

Anglesey has plenty to offer in this field and during our short early September break we took advantage of a few almost dry days to discover a few places of neolithic significance. We set off to find a cromlech and a burial mound, which are not the easiest of places to come across.

The burial mound, called Bryn Celli Ddu which means the Mound in the Dark Grove  was 5000 years old and was a passage tomb built to align with the rising sun on the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice. We wandered along a zig-zagging path between fields, with hedges hanging over us giving the impression of a dark tunnel. We seemed to have been walking a long way before a view sudden opened up before us, much lighter and open. There sat the barrow! We were amazed how good a condition it was in and the fact it was partly open to explore the passageway into the centre.

      

Once inside we waited a while until our eyes became used to the light and explored further, discovering beautiful carvings and offerings left by modern day visitors, a beautiful link to the past.

   

We could look back out towards today and daylight. We felt deeply moved by this experience and couldn’t wait to drive off to find our next magical prehistoric place.

  

The cromlech was very close to our holiday cottage so did not take long to find. On  the walk to the ancient stones we noticed this stand of wind-pruned stunted trees, a feature of this windswept island.

 

 

 

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Anglesey – Part 1 – A day out in Beaumaris

We love Anglesey and our favourite seaside place must be Beaumaris with its castle and its little pier. It is a seaside town in miniature. In the early autumn of 2017 Jude, the Undergardener and I spent a short break on Anglesey with our son Jamie, daughter-in-law Sam and granddaughter Arabella, and we just had to share our love of the place with them. We had taken Jamie there as a child but Sam, having lived her childhood in France and then moving to Leicester had never been before and baby Arabella was too young to have visited yet in her short life.

We took a wander along the sea front and to the end of the pier and back.

 

Having arrived at the little town mid-morning we needed to find a refreshment place prior to exploring the castle, and discovered this friendly cafe close to the castle alongside the bowling green. It looked very bright with its cerise and green coloured furniture.

From there we passed this old cottage with its typical cottage styled garden before arriving at the castle itself.

It must be one of the most photogenic castles in the UK, as well as being of great historic importance and significance. Jude has given me this information concerning the castle as I am no historian.

The construction of Beaumaris Castle began in 1295 and was built by Edward 1st, the last in a programme of castle building in Wales by the English to subjugate the Welsh. The castle was never finished however as money ran out! It is unusual in that it has a set of walls within walls for extra fortification. A surprising feature is its gateway to the sea, a tidal dock which allowed ships direct access to the castle to deliver supplies.

   

   

We had last visited the castle many years ago and had forgotten just how beautiful it was. Jude, being an historian looked at it from a different perspective from my aesthetic viewpoint, but we both absolutely love it.

 

 

Posted in architecture, buildings, the sea, the seaside, the shore, Wales | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

My Garden Journal 2018 – April

I began my April entries in my Garden Journal 2018 with the words, “April this year is a month to play “catch up” as the poor weather in the first quarter of the year has held us up so!” But as will be revealed during my entries this month things didn’t play into our hands as far as the weather was concerns. It rather dashed our hopes!

I continued, We had two weeks at home to garden before we went away for a Spring holiday. There was very little sign of the new season, a few daffodils and other Spring bulbs flowered but little fresh growth on perennials. Strangely, our Witch Hazels had a quick second flush of flowers.

 

Coppicing and pollarding feature strongly when we turn over to the next page, two of my favourite garden activities.

We usually aim to coppice and pollard our shrubs grown for their colourful stems, Cornus and Salix, before the end of March. The weather prevented us doing so this year so we tackled the job in early April. It is a job I love because I like to picture the results of my actions.

Some pruned stems are selected as cuttings to produce new plants to sell or as replacements.

 

Hazel rods become bean poles and the brash become pea sticks to be used on our allotment. We tidied up around the hazel stools and gave the footpath a mow over.

    

On the page opposite to the notes about coppicing and pollarding, I moved on to look at re-instating some of our grass paths, writing, A major job for this April was to repair and re-seed our grass paths. This is a result of having so many visitors when we open our garden for the National Garden Scheme.

 

We used my big vintage Bulldog fork to spike deeply into the lawn surface and top dressed the lawn with compost. We brushed this in and added fresh grass seed into bare patches. To stop our garden birds eating too many seeds we spread prunings over the surface. 

     

Over onto the next page we can see that I shared a quote from Dan Pearson’s Natural Selection, then looked at more of this month’s jobs.

Dan Pearson in his book Natural Selection wrote early in April, April is spring at its best, with the intensity of green being notched up daily until it is as vibrant as it ever will be. It is the time of some of my favourite plants and an opportunity to get to know better those that flourish in this brief window.

He moves on to speak of three of his favourite spring flowers namely Magnolias, Snakeshead Fritillaries and Tulips. We do not grow Magnolias here at our Avocet garden as we feel it difficult to justify growing a plant that performs for such a small period and sits static and dull for the rest of the year. We enjoy those growing in our neighbours’ gardens instead. Snakeshead Fritillaries and Tulips however we grow in profusion.

For the first few weeks of April this year there was no sign of the “intensity of green” mentioned above. We left to go away for the third of April, leaving our patch still firmly in the grip of Winter.

Before we left however we had jobs to do such as featured in the previous pages and several others which I feature next.

Our key job of this month was to add a single step to the slope into our Japanese Garden. The gravel tended to move beneath our feet as we stepped down the slope. A half-sized “railway sleeper” did the job nicely.

   

We topped up the log edging to the wildlife pool, topped up the bark paths and spent a day cleaning and sharpening all our secateurs and loppers.

    

Turning over to the next double page spread I wrote about the birds in our garden and then mentioned a sudden sign of spring.

I wrote, When we work in the garden we do so to a soundtrack of bird song as birds mark their new season’s territories. The loudest songbirds of all are members of the Thrush family, the Blackbirds and Song Thrushes and the more diminutive Robins. All the Titmice and Finches join in calling busily from songposts.

We enjoy watching all of our garden birds collecting nest materials and taking it off to well-hidden places. Throughout the UK people have nicknames for our most common birds. I did some research and came up with these.

Robin  –  Redbreast, Bob Robin

Song Thrush  –  Mavis, Throstle

Blackbird  –  Merle, Woofell, Colley, or Black Uzzle

House Sparrow  –  Spadger, Spuggie, Spaggie

Wren  –  Stumpy, Toddy, Sumpit, Old Lady’s Hen

Dunnock  –  Creepie, Shufflewing, Scrubber

Greenfinch  –  Green Olf, Greeney, Green Lennart

Great Tit  –  Black Capped Lolly, Black Headed Bob

Blue Tit  –  Tom Tit, Blue Cap, Pickcheese, Blue Bonnett

The most exciting bird spotted this month was an early Cuckoo who sat on top of a bush. This is a bird often heard but rarely seen, so it was a memorable sighting. 

 

The third week of the month saw Spring arrive very late and very quickly and dramatically after a few days of record setting high temperatures. Suddenly our spring flowering bulbs burst into life and leaf buds opened to reveal the brightest of greens, bronzes and pinks.

     

Tulips take over every part of our garden splashing their brightness among fresh greens of perennials growth.

          

A cold easterly wind blew back into our patch as the month came to an end. It has been a destructive force in our garden this Spring, burning leaves of even the toughest of shrubs. Every variety of Mahonia has been hit hard but do seem to be fighting back, dropping the dead browned leaves as new buds thrust from the branches.

So here I finish my report on my April pages in my garden journal. I will return in May when the weather may be more kind to us.

 

Posted in birds, flowering bulbs, garden photography, garden wildlife, gardening, gardens, hardy perennials, spring bulbs, spring gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

An early September holiday in Anglesey

We decided to spend a short break on the island of Anglesey, just off the coast of North- West Wales reached by a short bridge crossing over the treacherous waters of the Menai Straits. It has been a favourite place of ours for years as we enjoy its unique atmosphere, the friendly inhabitants and the varied countryside and even more varied coastline.

We rented a holiday bungalow in a small group of others along way from any towns or large villages, close to the coast and boasting stunning views. Jude and I went with our son, Jamie, his wife Sam and our year-old granddaughter Arabella. We were set for a most enjoyable time, hopefully weather permitting, spent outside in the fresh air.

 

The bungalow had a large garden with outcrops of rock among the grass and a beautiful ancient stone boundary wall along one side. The wall boasted so many varieties of Lichen growing on it as did the outcrops.

  

We had views from this wall over the nearest village which was on the coast.

As the day began to come to an end the light changed minute by minute and was different each day.

   

The holiday property proved to be a great place to go out from to visit the countryside, coast and the places of interest we planned to visit. We decided one day to give Arabella her first taste of a British beach and a chance to discover the sea.

The massive expanse of sand at our favourite Anglesey beach is always textured by wind and wave. On this visit we were pleased to spot an amazing sand art drawing of a unicorn, one of Arabella’s favourite animal characters.

 

 

We were lucky to spot this lizard, basking on a wooden post as we walked back from the beach.

 

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The Dingle Garden in April

We made our April visit to this year’s chosen garden for monthly visits expecting to enjoy all the freshness of early spring. How wrong could we be! The day dawned cold and misty and as we walked around the gravel paths we got more damp with each step as we were walking in a gentle mist. We felt as if we were wandering around the garden on a typical November day definitely not an April day.

Mist hung among the trees and rain droplets hung from buds and branches.

We expected to be able to enjoy early flowering shrubs like rhododendrons and azaleas, but there were just a few as the seasons are still lagging behind. A beautiful bright yellow flowered Berberis really brightened the gloom and an orange flowered variety glowed through the shrubs like beacons. Both of these Berberis added a little welcome scent to the walk.

 

Some Rhododendrons were flowering well while others still showed tight buds. At this time of year every little flower on the shrubs is so powerful.

       

We made our way down towards the lake enjoying the misty views out across the water. When we arrived at the bankside we walked the perimeter and all the way we could see the glow of the yellow-flowered Skunk Cabbage growing on the water’s edge.

 

As we wandered back along the gravel paths we spotted odd flowering perennials and bulbs giving patches of colour in the shade of the shrubs.

       

We were once again surprised by the lack of changes on this month’s visit, but as with anything to do with Mother Nature there was plenty for us to look at and consider. Perhaps on our next visit, which will be in May, we will experience the presence of spring.

Posted in flowering bulbs, garden pools, gardening, gardens, gardens open to the public, hardy perennials, lakes, light, light quality, ornamental trees and shrubs, shrubs, spring bulbs, spring gardening, trees, Wales, water in the garden, winter gardens, woodland, woodlands | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Early Spring Light in a Woodland Garden

March at the Dingle woodland garden at The Dingle and Nursery near Welshpool proved to be a time with special light when the sun appeared for odd periods. I am sharing some of my photos taken of the landscape and the light playing with it. I hope you enjoy them!

     

Posted in garden photography, gardening, gardens, gardens open to the public, landscapes, light, light quality, National Garden Scheme, NGS, ornamental trees and shrubs, trees, water in the garden, Winter Gardening, winter gardens, woodland, woodlands, Yellow Book Gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Winter Garden at Bodnant Hall

We left home for a journey up towards Chester and then West along the North Wales coast after listening to the local weather forecast for our destination. It predicted a heavy snow storm passing through early morning and warnings were announced for closed roads and dangerous conditions. The weather was set to travel eastward and weaken, so we hoped we would meet it as it had weakened and arrive at our destination as it cleared.

We got it spot on as a couple of hours later we arrived at the northern tip of Snowdownia, at Bodnant Hall where we wanted the see the Winter Garden. We had explored it before in the summer and it looked good then. We vowed to return in its prime season to see if it lived up to its summer promises.

We were not to be disappointed in the slightest as it surpassed all expectations. It was simply breathtaking. Come with us as we explore along its winding paths.

We entered the garden by following a path cut into the hillside and then down a ramp where we discovered a raised wall with the sort of planting we expected to see in the Winter Garden itself. We also passed two plants with not so friendly foliage, a Colletia paradoxa and a Yucca, both well endowed with points and sharp edges.

    

The world-famous laburnum arch looked so different at this time of year, exposing its strong structure and the shapes of each trained Laburnum tree.

  

As we began to follow the meandering paths which implored us to explore every part of the garden, we spotted some beautifully shaped trees and shrubs pruned to expose their lower trunks and branches, sharing their special shapes with us. Conifers sometimes create amazing shapes without the need for the gardeners’ secateurs and loppers.

     

The paths at Bodnant have been designed and set out to let the visitor appreciate every bit of planting from close up and from a distance to get a variety of views to appreciate. They are beautifully positioned.

           

Snow isolates flowers in such a strange way. It means we see them without foliage just their colours emerging from whiteness. We are so used to viewing flowers against a predominantly green background.

   

The beauty of the Winter Garden at Bodnant that is unique where such gardens are concerned is the way it is designed to have overall strength as a whole design but each pairing of plants and each grouping is applicable to most home gardens. Around each corner the visitor can discover an idea easily transferable to their own patch. The design is best described as accessible. Pathways ensure visitors see as much as possible and each feature planting from at least two different viewpoints. Here is a selection of pics showing these paths.

    

 

Next time we visit Bodnant Gardens will probably be in the spring when it looks very different again.

 

 

 

Posted in flowering bulbs, garden arches, garden design, garden paths, garden photography, gardening, gardens, gardens open to the public, grasses, hardy perennials, National Trust, ornamental grasses, ornamental trees and shrubs, pathways, pergolas, spring bulbs, The National Trust, trees, Wales, Winter Gardening, winter gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,